The beauty of polytunnels is that they can be utilised for so much without needing to spend a lot of time and money customising them to suit your needs. With a little adjustment to the doors or the addition of heaters, polytunnels can be used for a lot more than extending the growing season of your fruit and veg.
Over our decades in the industry, we’ve seen our own polytunnels used for a variety of unique purposes outside of agriculture. Sheep shelters, plane housing, you name it, we’ve seen it!
Recently, we were contacted by Byer Koi Farm, who were ordering yet another polytunnel for their thriving, family-run koi carp farming business in Hertfordshire. Koi farming isn’t a use that we had even considered, but our polytunnels make the perfect set-up for providing the precise conditions that fish need to grow, and we have previously seen our customers covering their ponds with polytunnels.
The lovely people at Byer Koi Farm were kind enough to provide us with the below testimony, praising the quality of our commercial polytunnels. They also explain how they use polytunnels to keep their koi thriving for a longer summer season, helping them to compete with businesses who import their fish from further afield.
“Our ‘Escape to the country’ was a move out of London to Hertfordshire, setting up Adam Byer Koi Farm. We supply a wide range of ornamental koi carp to retail and wholesale customers from our base near Hemel Hempstead and online at: https://www.byerkoifarm.co.uk/collections/koi-for-sale
Competing against imports grown in countries with much longer and warmer summers is a huge challenge and the polytunnels we have from First Tunnels have really helped us by extending our UK summer so we can go toe to toe with imports; and our customers now benefit from koi carp produced locally with less air miles.
We have two polytunnels; our first received back in 2013 is 9.6m wide and 20m long and we added a second of similar size a few years later. On both occasions we took delivery of the kits, and our team found the build straight forwards. The aluminium base rails were brilliant and helped to secure the plastic cover quickly at that really cool moment just after you’ve pulled the plastic cover over the frame. Both tunnels have sliding doors to help us save space onsite.
We’ve also been very happy with the general robustness of the tunnels. They’ve stood up to the annual extremes of storms, gales, and heatwaves for many years now, and we’re almost ready for another one to continue our expansion.”
Adam Byer, Byer Koi Farm
Why are polytunnels perfect for rearing koi?
Koi are delicate ornamental fish, and like any animal, they deserve a high living standard. Making sure their specific needs are met is what makes for quality koi, which is especially important for the Byer Koi Farm team to achieve before they send matured koi and koi fry off to their new homes.
1. Temperature control
One of the most important aspects of breeding and raising koi is keeping their water at a liveable temperature. But they won’t survive in the UK without intervention to keep their water above a certain temperature.
Koi ponds should be kept at 20 – 22c in the summer and 8 – 15c during the winter. Koi can live through a winter season perfectly well, and it’s recommended to provide this so that the fish can enter their natural hibernation mode. During this time, they should not be fed to ‘slim off’ or get rid of excess fat. This slimming helps female koi to release eggs (or spawn) during the next season.
A temperature of around 20c in the summer encourages koi spawning. Keeping koi ponds under the cover of a polytunnel (with or without the addition of a heating system) can maintain this temperature for longer, which is vital for businesses like Byer Koi Farm. A polytunnel can also protect the koi from cold winds by stopping the water from chilling
2. Simple to erect and maintain
Polytunnels are an inexpensive, but still high quality, alternative for providing year-round protection. They are also relatively simple to erect and elements, such as the polythene cover, can be replaced with ease, without disrupting the ponds inside.
3. Less disruption
Many koi owners and breeders move their koi into a holding tank inside during the winter to keep them out of the cold. If this is done incorrectly and the koi don’t acclimatise properly, it can shock and kill them. Introducing a polytunnel does away with the intricacies of unnecessary tank changes and allows much greater control over the temperature of the space.
4. Protection against predators
Another benefit of breeding or keeping koi in a polytunnel is that predators can’t get to them. Cats and predatory birds like owls and herons won’t hesitate to get their beaks around the fish if they are out in the open.
How do you use your polytunnel?
We hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into one of the many uses for polytunnels. At First Tunnels, we’re always keen to see the many innovative ways that people use our polytunnels.
If you have an interesting use for yours (whether domestic or commercial), please feel free to send an email to Sales@FirstTunnels.co.uk with pictures and some information.
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK